Appeals Court Dismisses Koch Claims over Counterfeit Wine Sale

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Written By admin at Friday, October 5th, 2012

A federal appeals court refused to revive a lawsuit by billionaire wine collector William I. Koch against auction house Christie’s International PLC over rare wines that Mr. Koch claimed were counterfeit.

Associated Press
William I. Koch

Mr. Koch sued Christie’s in 2010 more than a decade after he purchased four bottles of wine that were purportedly bottled in the late 18th century and linked to Thomas Jefferson, the drafter of the Declaration of Independence and one of America’s “founding fathers.”

He had purchased the wines from third-party dealers in 1988 and claimed to have relied on representations made by Christie’s in promoting previous sales of the wine.

On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed with a lower court and found that Mr. Koch’s racketeering claims weren’t timely and thus were barred under New York law.

“For wine, timing is critical,” said U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl, who was part of the appellate panel that heard the case. “The same is true for causes of action.”

Questions about the authenticity of the wine had been raised as far back as the mid-1980s. A Monticello historian, after examining Mr. Jefferson’s financial records, concluded in 1985 there was “no solid connecting evidence” between Mr. Jefferson and the wine. However, the Monticello report didn’t become public until years later.

In 2006, Mr. Koch separately sued the wine connoisseur who had claimed to find the cache of Jefferson wine in Paris in the mid-1980s. (Mr. Jefferson had served as the U.S. minister to France in the late 1700s before he became the U.S.’s third president.) Mr. Koch eventually obtained a default judgment in that case in 2010.

Brad Goldstein, a spokesman for Mr. Koch, said they would ask the full circuit to review the decision.

“The bad guys got away. They were able to get off on a technicality,” Mr. Goldstein said. “We certainly didn’t like the opinion. We felt the evidence was in our favor.”

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